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Hilly terrain gives hard time in ensuring water supply in CHT

DHAKA, June 4, 2017 (BSS) - Image of young tribal girls trudging bumpy
pathway through hillside with huge water pots precariously balanced on their heads is an integral part of the scenic view of the country's hill tracks.

It might be a lucrative tourism product of selling the virgin lifestyle of tribal people, but behind the scene, it is a daily struggle of tribal girls to collect safe drinking water despite many government efforts taken for ensuring water supply to the hilly people.

The scarcity of fresh drinking water is an old-aged problem of hilly
inhabitants since the long back indigenous settlement of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The government is still facing a tough challenge in ensuring supply of safe drinking water in CHT due mainly to rough hilly terrain.

According to the statistics of Public Health Engineering Department (DPHE), currently only 39 percent of inhabitants in Khagrachhari, 49 percent in Bandarban and 65 percent in Rangamati districts are under supply coverage of safe drinking water that is 98 percent in other parts of the country.

"The government has taken initiatives to build 100 kilometer pipes covering nine upazilas of Khagracharri district to provide safe water to 2000 households. Besides, pumps will be installed at 56 markets in the district, District DPHE engineer Pradip Kumar Bar said.

Moreover, the government has taken different projects for supplying of drinking water at Matiranga, Ramgar and Sadar upazila of the district. There is a government instruction to spend 15 percent of development budget of upazila council for water and sanitation.

The government has also a plan to build ring wells and sink tube wells and shallow tube wells at the remote hilly areas.

However, it is very difficult to sink tube well at the hilly terrain due to its stone surface. Even if deep tube well is sunk it is difficult to get underground water as the water level is too low. It is not even possible to lift a single drop of underground water at many places in the CHT district like Bodapara, Komolcharri and Borkomol of Rangamati district.

People living in the remote hilly areas have to walk mile after mile for collecting safe drinking water. Water crisis goes to the peak especially in summer season. The tribal women have to spend several hours in their daily routine for collecting safe water. Women of the tribes live in the top of the hills have to get down and claim back twice in a day just for collecting water.

The tribe members are forced to collect water from hilly chhara or narrow channels of water coming down from the hills. Most of the time, these waters are contaminated as latrines are built beside these natural water sources. People are suffering from different waterborne diseases like diarrhea by drinking the contaminated water.

Assistant Medical Officer of Thanchi Hospital Alok Chakma said the
hospital is occupied by diarrhea patients during the entire summer season. "Most of the diarrhea patients are children," he said.

Though "water is a human right, not a commodity" has become a slogan worldwide, still 120 crore people around the globe are deprived of access to safe drinking water.

Like many other countries, the Bangladesh government is also committed to ensure supply of fresh drinking water to all.

In her speech at climate conference-2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated her call to global leaders for creating a global fund for water security. "Global attention should be accorded to the efficient use of water and its effective governance," she said.

On November 28 last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sought
comprehensive global efforts for water management and urged world leaders to prioritise water issues in their policies and actions at Water Summit 2016 held in the Hungarian capital-Budapest.